Dusty Howe, National Sales Director at Upland Brewing Co., and Firebelly CEO Duncan Alney sat down, with Champagne Velvet in hand, to talk beer marketing.
As breweries continue to pop up around Indiana – and the U.S. in general – Howe shares his thoughts on what will make or break the market.
What Does It Take For Beer Marketing Success?
The obvious start of being successful in the beer industry is to create a high quality beer. According to Howe, IPAs are a safe beer to brew but for this reason is the hardest market to break through. This is where Upland Brewing Co.’s focus on sour beers has made the brand stand out.
While they have a niche beer that people enjoy, they’re an authentic brand. A prime example is their traditional Belgian-style wood-aged sours. This is a long process taking six months to a year to make. However, it fits their brand, is unique in the industry and makes their audience happy—making it worth the time and effort.
With a hard-to-predict industry, beer marketing can be challenging. Howe uses the example of cans versus bottles. Over the course of about three years, the beer industry has moved away from bottles and focused more on canning. So staying on top of packaging is another key element to beer marketing.
The easiest way to stay ahead with your beer and marketing is by knowing your audience.
Upland’s Approach To Understanding Their Audience
Upland currently has six locations in Indiana serving their craft beers and sour ales. These brewpubs and taprooms are what Upland uses to gain insight from the key ingredient to beer marketing, the audience.
Through conversations and direct feedback, Upland learns what their consumers want. Howe advises brewers to listen to their customers and see what excites them. That can even mean jumping on to trends at times.
When you know your audience you can develop a strong marketing model. Upland’s model for their sours division has been the core of their success. They continue to do small drops, but hand pick restaurants and distributors that know how to incorporate Upland into their industry.
Tell Your Story Through Influencers
Once you know your audience, you want to continue to grow it for future success. One of the best ways to grow your audience is through influencers. Firebelly Marketing connects Upland with influencers as they tour around different states to market their beers and sours.
This opens up opportunities for Upland to share their story one-on-one with influencers who will then share it with their audiences. Howe taps into how these intimate experiences of storytelling can make someone more willing to buy into the product or experience you’re offering.
Beyond connecting to beer influencers as a way to enhance beer marketing, Howe wants to connect to influencers in the lifestyle realm who are interested in beer culture. Continually talking to beer drinkers exclusively doesn’t necessarily grow your audience.
Instead, he enjoys converting those wine and cocktail drinkers into beer drinkers. By taking advantage of opportunities where you can turn a skeptic into a consumer, your brand can stand out among the competition.
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Grow Your Audience Through Collaboration
One of the things Howe loves about the beer industry is how collaborative it is. Upland’s collaboration with Oliver Winery was the start of their sours production that defines them today.
Incorporating collaboration into your beer marketing strategy can help not only spread awareness but grow your audience in new markets. The key to collaboration is to find breweries that have similar values and products so you can intermix audiences.
When Upland started collaborating with breweries in other markets, they found consumers became familiar with their brand in that market.
The competition is heavy with roughly 6,000 breweries in the U.S. What Howe hopes to see is small breweries becoming more creative and offering something that will set them a part.
So take time to create a beer marketing plan for your brewery and don’t be afraid to take risks. Upland is a prime example of how to tap into new markets and use a sustainable model for successful beer marketing.
You can watch their full Facebook Live video about beer marketing below!
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